With news of Premiership Rugby players committing to their immediate rugby-futures, the Bristol Bears club has ‘got their man’ with tight forward John Afoa extending his contract until the 2020/21 season.
Targeted as a key figure in the Premiership-goals set by head coach Pat Lam, the former All Black has committed to another term of professional rugby union. And at 36 years of age, he is still considered one of the more effective offshore players to have graced to the game in England.
From his first venture into European Professional Rugby competition with Ulster, Afoa has been a ‘solid figure’ in the same vein as Nick Evans. That sentiment was reinforced by his term with Gloucester Rugby.
Then in 2018, he signed with the newly promoted Bristol Bears – again, showing he was by far the gold standard in propping forwards last season. Named in the team of the year, it was a vintage Afoa that Bears fans became familiar with.
no wonder Bristol wishes to retain his services….what Premiership side would not do the same for john afoa.
Pat Lam reaffirmed this in a Bears media statement. “I’m absolutely delighted that John has committed to another season with the Bears,” Lam said. “He is a genuinely world-class performer, a shining example to our younger players and a leader in the camp.
Knowing that John Afoa has extended with term with the Bristol Bears, other sides in the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership will have to consider that factor when analyzing the SouthWest opposition.
Bristol Bears extend contract with John Afoa until 2020/21
Teams will consider his presence a threat. His skillset a danger to their tactics, and to some rugby observers; who might think that he limits opportunity for local Bristol players, that he makes the team a contender for the Premiership.
However, they might not understand how a senior player like John Afoa can demonstrate the values required of a long-respected professional. Like Nick Evans – who was celebrated by Harlequins fans, and inducted into the 2019 Premiership Hall of Fame – Afoa’s understanding of the game gives him a command place in the squad.
“Not only does he perform consistently well, but John’s preparation and attention to detail is always spot on. He understands what is required to be at the very top of the game, and his knowledge and experience of this competition is second to none”. Pat Lam appreciates the input of Afoa, and can see the evidence for retaining the services of the former Blues player.
“John is one of the best scrummagers in the Premiership and he’s a major attacking threat for us too – it’s a significant asset for us to have him in our armoury.”
Trademark runs up the middle and an ever-reliable shoulder in the scrum can only be inspirational to the Bristol Bears club hopes for this season and next. For a player who capped his International career with a Rugby World Cup medal in 2011, the work that Afoa has comprised in the Premiership for the bristol Bears, is equally impressive.
Afoa enjoying Bears ‘positive culture’ under Lam
“It was a fantastic first season for Bristol and an easy decision to extend for another year,” Afoa said. I’ve been in a lot of different team environments, but the culture and togetherness that Pat Lam has instilled here is right up there with the best”.
The positive comments reinforce the high regard that Pat Lam is held in. Success with Connacht Rugby in the Pro12 Celtic League took the former Western Samoa captain to Bristol, and promotion into the cauldron of the Premiership. Making that an attractive and positive workplace is part of the reason John Afoa will still be playing at the ripe age of 37 [by the time his contract extension ends].
But fans can be reassured that he will still be giving it 100% when that time comes.
What team would not jump at the signature of such a player. He will add plenty to the Bears over the next two seasons. As well as to the competition in general.
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images